05 Sep 2023

EK Retail is on a mission to become "better, more sustainable, and more responsible"

The retailer is in discussions with manufacturers about the shift from a throwaway society to a circular economyIn an exclusive interview, Chief Retail Officer at EK Retail Jochen Pohle told IFA International how the company is adapting to changing consumer preferences while becoming more sustainable.

Mr Pohle highlighted some of the key consumer trends affecting the industry as well as which product groups are performing best with regard to recent sales. He also shared EK Retail's take on the growing repair and refurbishment trend, and what this means for retailers.

What are some of the major consumer trends impacting the retail sector?

Rising electricity bills and climate protection have put the topic of saving energy right at the top of consumers' minds. At the same time, the purchase price is playing a greater role. High inflation, among other things due to rising prices for holidays, is putting pressure on disposable incomes. For financially stronger consumers, who do not feel the effects of inflation as much, comfort and time-saving remain important purchase arguments.

How is sustainability reshaping the consumer and home electronics market? How can retail play an active role in improving the industry’s environmental impact?

In view of the global threat to our livelihoods, more and more people are asking themselves "what kind of world do we want to live in?" They also expect the consumer and household electronics industry to provide resource-saving solutions. Yesterday's "faster, higher, further" philosophy is giving way to "better, more sustainable, more responsible" and we have to adapt to this in our business models.

In our view, the role of the retail sector is extremely important. Our ESG strategy drafted in 2022 is being implemented in an ongoing process in the operations of all business units. We are opening the doors wide to a sustainable shopping experience for customers. Our local retailers have been selling quality instead of quantity for decades, offering a comprehensive service and the right advice. Their credibility makes them a real fixture in terms of sustainability.

Which product groups are selling best at the moment?

In the large appliances segment, fully automatic washing machines continue to be in high demand. You can't do without them, so purchases in this segment have top priority. In fitted kitchens, high-quality cooker bonnets are still a big hit. Apart from pure functionality, the focus here is also on technical refinements, style, and energy efficiency. And in small electrical appliances, the categories of body care and personal diagnostics have been all the rage for some time now. This reflects a greater awareness of well-being and health consciousness.

What are EK Retail's main goals at IFA this year?

We want to see our EK trade partners, get to know new dealers, and meet everyone who is not yet a fan of electroplus küchenplus. To this end, we are bringing along many new services in addition to the familiar ones, because the EK brand store concept thrives on permanent, continuous development.

At our stand, we are presenting a progressive store design, our 360-degree marketing, and the EK exclusive appliances concept among other things. In addition, in close cooperation with industry partners such as Grohe and the Our Greenery start-up, we want to generate new marketing impulses and fuel the buying mood. And last but not least, our aim at this fair is to become even closer to all our market partners in order to strengthen the competitive position of the specialist trade as a whole.

How does EK Retail view the growing repair and refurbishment trend and what are the challenges and opportunities for retailers?

As we move away from a throwaway society and towards a circular economy, more consumers are turning to repairs. Many of our dealers employ specialised service technicians for this purpose. In our experience, the combination of purchase with repair insurance has proven to be an ideal solution for both specialised trade and the customer.

One potential stumbling block could be high prices for spare parts. Here, we are in discussions with manufacturers because the repair costs should be in proportion to the new purchase. Of course, the reconditioning of large electrical appliances with high mechanical stress is labour-intensive and therefore has a cost. It's a question of finding the right way. The situation is different for high-quality telecommunication devices, where the repair is worthwhile in many cases.

Smart indoor farming from Our Greenery

On the EK Retail stand at IFA 2023 this year is Our Greenery, a Berlin-based startup that combines indoor farming with high design standards to develop a "room garden" concept. The base unit, measuring 83x100x47cm, can fit into most standard kitchens and can also stand freely in other rooms.

The idea behind the room garden, which works on a subscription model, is to bring food production directly to where it is used: in home kitchens, restaurants, companies, and events. It is suitable for any room with a temperature of 16 to 25°C, and specific lighting is not needed, though direct sunlight should be avoided. The concept is scalable, with up to 60 extensions over three floors. "Depending on use, an average harvest of just under 7kg per month can be achieved," the company said.

Uses vary, from micro-greens to salads, herbs, and edible flowers. According to Our Greenery, the room garden is suitable for commercial use, including catering. "Many of our customers are already successfully using the Raumgarten for the production of fresh ingredients in their restaurants or shops," said CEO and Founder Daniel Bosman.

Hall 4.1 / Stand 202